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Redeemer to come
me. If there be utterances of proverbial wisdom, redemption is the theme of the sage. The vision of the seer exhibits in gorgeous pictures of the imagination only the same subject; while all the familiar letters breathe of it, from the commencement to the close. As a whole, the illustration which the great subject derives from this mode of treating it, is incomparably more ample and splendid than that which could have been conferred upon it in any other method.
3. In the Bible we find not only many books, and many kinds of books, but many writers. Not less than about fifty persons employed themselves in the production of the materials which are here brought together. Very far indeed were they, therefore, from being the fruit of one man's mind and pen. Here was a wide opening for diversity of sentiment and representation. Could it possibly happen that fifty men. in writing about the same subject, and that subject so grand and vast, should write the same thing? What diversities of constitution, of education, of habit,, of character, of external influences, must be supposed in them; and these giving birth to corresponding diversities of opinion. Yet what seems impossible did happen. They did all write the same thing. They all saw the state of the world in the same light, and described its redemption in similar terms and in a similar spirit. Whether Moses the lawgiver, or David the sweet singer, or Solomon the philosopher and the sage, or Isaiah the seer, or Luke the historian, or Paul the rabbinical student, all-strange to say from him that was • learned in all the wisdom of Egypt' to him that sat at Gamaliel's footstool, wrote the same things.
4. In the Bible we observe not only many books, many kinds of books, and many writers, but a long course of years during which these writings were in process of composition. The Bible was not the production of a year, nor of an age. No less than sixteen hundred years passed away between the composition of the Pentateuch and that of the Apocalypse; and at various periods throughout the whole of this extended interval the sixty other books were produced. Nor have we to observe only the length of this period, but also the great changes which took place in the course of it. When the earliest books of the Bible were written, the descendants of Jacob were yet bondsmen in Egypt, and had not been numbered among the nations. Five hundred years witnessed the arrival of the Israelitish people at the zenith of their glory, under David and Solomon; about five hundred more saw their utmost depression in the lands of their captivity; another five hundred beheld the advent of the Messiah, and the presence in his own temple of the desire of all nations ;' and before one century more had passed, the captured Jerusalem was in ruins, and the temple blazing like a sepulchral pyre. During the occurrence of all these changes within the separated people themselves, and amidst changes in the nations around them of the greatest magnitude which the world had ever seen, the composition of the Bible went tranquilly
Legislators and kings, poets and sages, biographers and epissts, much too widely separated in time to know anything of one another, and in circumstance to have any natural community of feeling,
conspired to write this one book, and to illustrate in a beautiful harmony its magnificent theme. Is not this wonderful? Is it not supernatural ?
II. Secondly, some further peculiarities of the Bible are to be found in its tone and manner.
1. This is not artificial. The book, on the contrary, is characterised by an obvious and striking simplicity. Its histories are not elaborate statements, or highly-wrought pictures of society; but have all the nature and ease of contemporaneous narrative. Its grandest statements of truth are neither ushered in, nor followed, by any notes of admiration. Its sublimest effusions of poetry are never overwrought, or as if oppressed with the majesty even of the highest themes. Its descriptions of the most touching sorrows, or of the most criminal machinations, are connected with no appeals to the feelings. Its great system of redeeming mercy is brought out without any epithets of wonder. All is simplicity, not only unsurpassed, but unapproached. There is no use made of the art of composition, no study for effect. Each writer, indeed, contributes his quota to a whole of which he was ignorant, and he could not be artful. He must either execute in simplicity the part allotted to him, or he could do nothing. If there was any one exercising artistic skill, it could only be the Divine Artist who had employed so many hands in the execution of his picture.
2. The tone and manner of the Bible is not speculative. In no respect is the Bible more peculiar than in this. The researches of the human mind are characterised by nothing more strongly than by unbridled inquisitiveness. Man, in his desire to know, desires to know every thing ; and, indeed, insists upon knowing everything, chafing against the impassable limitations of his knowledge, and fretting himself often into depression, and sometimes into insanity. Man also desires to know for the sake of knowing, and for the pleasure of knowledge in itself, rather than for its useful applications. Not so the writers of the Bible. They do not raise curious questions, or strive to fathom profound depths. They make no approaches to the vast abyss of the unknowable : on the contrary, they write as if there were no such thing in existence. Having no object but to throw light upon man's character and destiny for practical purposes, they speak of nothing but what is at once within the compass of his knowledge, and useful to the direction of his life. They meddle with no difficulties, but abide unhesitatingly by a rule which human philosophy has always found too galling, Secret things belong to God, but things that are revealed belong to us and to our children.' All that man in relation to his spiritual welfare can be the better for knowing, the Bible teaches him, not as philosophy, but as wisdom ; his irrepressible but undefined longings after other knowledge, it does not so much rebuke, as ignore.
3. The tone and manner of the Bible is not argumentative. This is, more or less, the character of all human productions which have truth for their object. They commence with an assumed ignorance, and pursue course of investigation. They institute inquiries, and conduct processes of reasoning to their results. They arrive at con
clusions, which they confirm by proofs, and fortify against objections. The sacred writers pursue for the most parta strikingly different method. Their style, instead of being argumentative, is dogmatical. They do not inquire, but explain; they do not prove, but assert. They settle everything by authority—thus saith the Lord.' They do not lead the reader into an argument, and reason with him as if in equal uncertainty with himself; but, as knowing all that he wants to learn, they tell him what it is, not waiting to dispute with him, but leaving him to act upon it. If there are a few exceptions to this observation, as in the Epistle to the Romans, they confirm the rule. Even where the sacred writers argue, it is with a brevity and authority which strikingly distinguish them.
4. The tone and manner of the Bible is not dubious. The assertions are all positive. It speaks with no hesitation. It treats, indeed, of subjects, on which to speak with hesitation might be deemed a virtue, if not a necessity ; à becoming modesty, if not a confession of at least some measure of uncertainty. Mere men could not well have avoided this, but among the sacred writers there is nothing of the kind. None of their great principles are laid down with this exordium, . It is probable it may be so ;' or, 'I do not think I am mistaken.' The most profound and anxious questions that have ever exercised or racked the human mind are before them; yet their tone is one, not only of deep conviction, but of unwavering confidence. It never falters. They pass through the midst of the most magnificent objects with a step of familiar recognition, and describe them with as: much ease and precision as though they presented the most ordinary phenomena. How, we ask, is all this? How, in this one book, can men, mere men, have written so unlike themselves ?
III. Let us now advert to such peculiarities of the Bible as are to be found in its matter and substance. What we shall be struck with here is its verisimilitude, or likeness to truth. We are not speaking now of the absolute truth of the Bible, of which we do not assume our faculties to constitute us adequate judges; but of the remarkable degree in which it is true to human nature and to known fact, to the laws of human thought, and the dictates of human consciousness.
1. Remark, for example, what it tells us of God; the great mysterious Being whose existence all nature proclaims, and man's universal heart confesses, but of whose real nature and character' there have been formed the most erroneous, diverse, and incompatible conceptions. Upon this primary point, how clear, and how true is the Bible ! Without any attempt at definition, or formal description, it presents to us God as a spirit, infinite, self-esistent, eternal, omniscient, and omnipotent; of perfect wisdom, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth. How such a conception of the Deity compares with the various notions which the human heart has generated of him-or rather, with those into which the human heart has itself degenerated—we need scarcely say; or point to the African worshipping his fetish, the Egyptian his river and its crocodiles, the Greek his sculptured marble, or the Persian the celestial orb. What we have more particularly to observe, is, that in
none of these conceptions of the Deity has the heart of man found rest. That there have been so many gods—the Hindoo has three and thirty millions of them is a proof that no one has been found able to satisfy the human craving for divinity ; while from all these, which are but distorted reflections of man himself to his own eyes, the more thoughtful of our race have turned in disgust, and found a fearful refuge from the manifest chimeras of idolatry in the philosophic systems--pantheism, or atheism. The scriptural conception of the Deity, on the other hand, is, as we have said, true to nature. Man's heart accepts it as corresponding with all its requirements of the divine, and pronounces it to be true. While the Bible says, on the one hand, God is this,' the human consciousness responds on the other, this is God.' Man's heart seeks no farther. And having such a God, it is now for the first time content with one. The sage and the savage-those who changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things,' and those who took refuge from these degrading follies in the deification of their own intellect-all, and equally, are satisfied that here their search after God has found its goal.
2. Remark what the Bible tells us of the world. We have all heard something of the various speculations in which philosophers have indulged respecting its origin, of the supposed fortuitous concurrence of the atoms which compose it, the eternity of matter, and such like; and we know how different a tale the Bible tells. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.' •Of old hast thou laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of thy hands. Now, inconceivable to created beings as the act of creation is, and must necessarily be, it is certain that in the statement of the creation of the universe by a being uncreated, the mind of man finds a repose which, in relation to the origin of things, it has never found elsewhere. The doctrine is at once bold and satisfactory. Perhaps the boldest aspect of it is its ascribing the creation of the world to one God, since the marvellous and astounding mixture of physical good and evil in it has always been a stumbling-block in the way of this conclusion, and has led mere philosophy itself to admit the probable existence of at least one divinity for the phenomena of each class; but even here man's heart sides with the Bible against philosophy, and has more rest in the belief of mysteries in the proceedings of one God, than in referring the world to the more mysterious production of two.
3. Remark what the Bible tells us of man.
One of the most striking features of the scripture history in this respect is its tracing up the human species to a single pair. The declaration that God hath made of one blood all nations to dwell upon the face of all the earth,' is, no doubt, very familiar to us; but in affirming the original unity of human races and human languages, the earlier sacred writers took a course which, in later days, by the extraordinary development of diversity in both, has exposed them to eager charges of misstatement. It is modern philosophers, however, who find themselves led into too hasty conclusions, and thus betrayed into mistakes. The farther scientific investigations are pursued, and the more patiently they are carried out, the nearer do they continually come to the scriptural view, and they thus show the Bible to be as true to historic fact as to human consciousness. Races and languages, with all their diversities, have already resolved themselves into so few groups, that doubts of their primary unity easily disappear, while the causes of their diversity exactly correspond with the scriptural representation. Differences of race may be conceived of as resulting from the long-continued operation of natural causes; differences of language necessitate the supposition of a supernatural cause.
The moral condition of man has presented a still greater difficulty to investigation than his physical condition, and the acknowledged impossibility of accounting for it may be said to be the great opprobrium of philosophy. Why, with such moral powers, is man universally wicked, still, according to the Roman poet, approving the better and doing the worse? The question perplexed the ancients, and it equally perplexes the moderns. A distinguished continental philosopher is said to have confessed, that the irregular and abnormal character of man's moral action deranged all his attempts to frame a systematic view of human nature. But what says the Bible of this mystery? "God made man upright, but he hath sought out many inventions. Yes, it is true. Man is now but the wreck of a once nobler nature. He is a splendid piece of machinery with a derangement of the moving power; and investigators who are ignorant of this, or who will not take account of it, can form no true estimate of his condition. With this information, however, all is plain—so plain, that there can be no doubt of the truth of the statement which solves the enigma.
4. Remark what the Bible tells us of the scope of human life and destiny.
Man's heart seizes upon this world as his allotted sphere, and goes forth among its various attractions, resolved to find somewhere among them an object for its worship and consecration. When he finds the search vain, crossed, disappointed, chagrined, and sometimes maddened, he seems to have no refuge but to curse the system of which he has been made an element, and the blind, if not cruel, despotism to which he has become a victim. No one can explain this to him but the Bible. He thought the world was given to him, and his vehement passions implanted in him, for the purpose to which he has applied them; but there he hears the voice of eternal wisdom— My son, GIVE ME thinc heart;' and he listens to the breathings of one who has learned the lesson,- My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed; I will sing and give praise.' This his heart feels to be the truth concerning the real happiness of man.
His revelling in the present is not less solemnly rebuked than his creature idolatry. To be happy to-day, and like to-day to make to-morrow, is man's practical philosophy. But the Bible opens to man a future and an endless existence, with an element of retribution